Posts Tagged ‘vocations’

From the Office of Vocations

You’ve heard the term, made popular by Bl. Mother Teresa, “Come and See.” It’s used commonly now to refer to an immersion experience of discernment, whether it’s a short visit or an extended period of active discernment. It can be a great help if you’re doing everything you are supposed to, but seem “stuck” in your discernment.

peaceObviously, if you’re committed to a diligent discernment, you are living a moral life, making sure you are applying yourself to prayer and study of the Faith, being  active in some sort of apostolate, and meeting regularly with a competent spiritual director, if possible. For some, God makes His will known through these things alone. But sometimes they do not result in a clear answer, and you may be left with the same (or even more!) uncertainty about where God is calling you to go with your life. In this case, God may be prompting you to take another step and “jump into the water.”

Take Kevin, for example. A couple of years ago, he acknowledged that God seemed to be calling him to discern the priesthood. He became more active in his parish, began reading about the Faith, praying every day, and his life is generally focused on discerning his vocation very strongly. For a year, he’s been in contact with the vocation director. However, God hasn’t given him a clear indication of what to do next. His spiritual director encouraged him to apply for seminary, and then see what direction God gives him.

God doesn’t always give an obvious answer. He may want you to show Him you’re willing to trust by handing over your insecurities and delving into a more radical discernment. A “Come and See” in the form of active formation (e.g. a house of studies program, seminary, or postulancy) shows God that you’re really willing to take the next step, and are ready to openly listen to His prompting. Once you do that, it’s crucial to be prepared to be patient and let God show you what He wants to do with you next. If you’re faithfully living the “Come and See,” He will show you whether it is His will that you continue; and if it is not His will, He will show you the path that He wants you to take next.

It’s easy in this situation to assume that, since God isn’t clearly saying “continue on this path,” He’s indicating a change of direction. But an important principle of the “Come and See” is that God will give some clear direction on the next step to take.

What’s nice about this approach is that you don’t have to worry about discovering or making a decision regarding your vocation. God does the work, either directly in your heart (sometimes it will be painfully obvious that you don’t fit in the formation program), or by external circumstances (maybe your formation director says it’s just not a good fit). There is no need for fretting over “figuring it out.” You just have to be faithful and patient until He speaks clearly.

Thank you for taking the time to consider your vocation. Be open with God and He will bless you greatly!

If you would like to talk about your vocation, give Fr. J.D. Jaffe, Vocations Director of the Diocese of Arlington, a call or send him an email.

This was originally featured in June of 2014 in the Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Vocations’s E-Newsletter Discernment, a monthly subscription-based email of vocations insights. These posts will be a monthly feature on Encourage & Teach to help those interested in learning more about vocations, to shed light on what it’s like living a vocation in everyday life, and as reminder to pray: for our priests and religious and that all people may discern and live their vocations with joy.

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By: Rev. Edward Horkan, Diocese of Arlington priest

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us…run the race that is before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1).

I recalled that line often when I prepared for and ran my first marathon two years ago as part of the Race for Seminarians for the Arlington Diocese. I had been running for 20 years, having initially taken up the sport mostly to keep company with a friend of mine and with the lawyers in the firm that I worked for. Over time, I have found that running, in addition to being good exercise that keeps us more fit, is very relaxing to the mind and even leads to more positive and creative thinking.

Father Edward Horkan (bottom left) racing for seminarians in the 2013 MCM 10K.

Father Edward Horkan (bottom left) racing for seminarians in the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon 10K.

It’s a constant temptation to dwell excessively upon the past, worry too much about the future, or be distracted by the superficial images of popular culture from the reality that God gives us — the real life through which we travel to the greater kingdom. Running requires a concentrated and sustained effort to focus on the present and real challenges on the path before us. This willingness to take on a demanding task, this disciplining of the body and concentration of the mind, makes us more open to the true joy that God offers. While certainly on a lesser plane than prayerful contemplation, this sacrifice and consistent application leads to a peace and exhilaration that reflects the uplifting of one’s heart and mind to the higher kingdom.

In 2011, I joined the Race for Seminarians by running the 10K that is connected to the Marine Corps Marathon to help our generous and enthusiastic seminarians, who sometimes come from modest circumstances, to avoid financial anxieties. After running this 10K, I resolved, with some encouragement from friends, to take on a greater challenge and run the full marathon, asking kind donors to sponsor me in this effort for the diocese and our seminarians. And once again this year, I am running the marathon for our current seminarians, and also to encourage young men to consider joining the noble brotherhood of priests. As with past years, I look forward to the common sacrifice and struggle of fellow runners in this cause, an effort that builds a sense of companionship, sharing with each other and the world the joy and adventure of our faith.

Find out more at the RFS Kickoff on Sept. 4 from 6-7:30 p.m. at St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington. The evening will include a taco bar, tips from a trainer, and information on the Race for Seminarians. The deadline to RSVP to the Office of Vocations on Facebook or at vocations@arlingtondiocese.org is Sept. 1. You can sign up for the actual Race for Seminarians here.


Rev. Edward Horkan is a parochial vicar at St. James Church in Falls Church. An avid runner, he has been participating in the Race for Seminarians since 2011, its inaugural year.

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From the Office of Vocations

Ever experience the feeling of uncertainty or a lack of clarity; or worse, have you found yourself feeling one day one way and another day the opposite? One of the most difficult parts of discerning your vocation is knowing when to accept a motivation as being from God or contrary to God’s plan. The path ahead is sometimes unclear, especially when your emotions are divided.

In these difficult moments, a bit of advice from St. Ignatius comes to our aid. In his Discernment of Spirits, St. Ignatius provides a clear way to determine the path forward in these seemingly complicated situations. Be aware that, as with any good action, it requires work and reflection.

St_Ignatius_of_Loyola_(1491-1556)_Founder_of_the_JesuitsThe first thing to do, says St. Ignatius, is to be sure that you are working to avoid sin and live virtue. The enemy will have an easier time luring the man who persists in sin into further sinfulness, whereas a man striving for virtue will be aided by the good spirit to see and desire that which helps him to love God.

The rest of his advice lies in understanding Spiritual Consolation and Spiritual Desolation.

Spiritual consolation is a spiritual gift which can help the soul to become more in tune with God’s plan. It is an interior movement of the soul to love God first, and all other things in Him. It is a growth in virtue or joy which lead a man to strive for love of God. Spiritual desolation, on the other hand, is the de-motivation of the soul which makes one apathetic, feeling separated from God, darkness of soul. St. Ignatius also describes it as the restlessness that comes from temptation, especially temptation against faith, hope and charity.

When you experience consolation, it is not difficult to continue doing what you know to be good and right, because the good spirit provides strength and courage. However, it is important to remain humble, knowing that any good you do ultimately depends on grace. During consolation, St. Ignatius counsels that you should prepare for the time of desolation, since it will eventually come. Consider what will be most difficult for you to continue doing when your emotions are telling you to give in or turn away, and be ready.

There are three reasons for spiritual desolation, says St. Ignatius. First, you may have become lazy in your spiritual exercises; you aren’t keeping up with your commitment to prayer, the sacraments, moral living, etc. Second, God may be providing a time or an opportunity to test your resolve and progress in the spiritual life. And, finally, it may provide an opportunity for the soul to understand how completely it relies on God, since lasting consolation only comes from Him.

During a period of desolation, the enemy will assault you with temptations, doubts, and apathy. He will work to discover and exploit your weaknesses, so it is crucial to remain firm in your purpose. St. Ignatius says that this is not the time to make a decision to change your course. On the other hand, he advises that you should be even more fervent in your spiritual exercises. Also, since the enemy works in deceit and secrecy, it is imperative to be completely open with your spiritual director.

When you remain firm against desolation, clinging to your devotion to God rather than abandoning it, the enemy will become scared. He may lash out with renewed fury. But fear not. St. Ignatius tells us that, to a man who remains firm in desolation, God will bring consolation soon!

If you are having doubts about your discernment, be careful that you are receiving good direction, that you are not making choices during a time of spiritual darkness or desolation, and that you remain firm of purpose until God gives you a clear indication that He wants you to change course. In this way, you will be sure to remain open to God’s plan, and certainty of your vocation will be given to you in His time.

Thank you for taking the time to consider your vocation. Be open with God, and He will bless you greatly!

If you would like to talk about your vocation, give me a call or send me an email.

This was originally featured in May of 2014 in the Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Vocations’s E-Newsletter Discernment, a monthly subscription-based email of vocations insights. These posts will be a monthly feature on Encourage & Teach to help those interested in learning more about vocations, to shed light on what it’s like living a vocation in everyday life, and as reminder to pray: for our priests and religious and that all people may discern and live their vocations with joy.

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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

Given by Bishop Loverde for the Quo Vadis Days Opening Mass at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

Dear brothers and sisters all in Christ Jesus, but in a very special way, the participants in this year’s Quo Vadis Days. My words are particularly addressed to you, dear young brothers.

Imagine this! God is standing before you and saying to you, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” What would you say? What would you do? It is mind-boggling almost! Now you would probably answer me: that could not happen. But it did, to Solomon, a mere youth, a young person like you, and we heard this in today’s first reading. The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night, and God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” And this happened not only once to Solomon, but it has been happening over and over again. And it is happening now — here! God is saying to each of you who are taking part in these Quo Vadis Days, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you!” So what will you answer?

Quo Vadis BishopI hope that you will echo Solomon: “Lord, give me an understanding heart, a heart that is able to distinguish right from wrong.” And why do I hope that you will ask for an understanding heart? Because an understanding heart is open to God’s plan. Yes, God has a plan for each one of us. Inner peace and true fulfillment can only be found when each one of us is in tune with God’s plan, whatever it may be.

“But,” you ask, “what is God’s plan for me? After all, if inner peace and true fulfillment can only be found when each one of us is in tune with God’s plan, whatever that may be, then it is essential that we discover what is His plan, His will for my life.”

In today’s gospel account, Jesus is teaching us through story — telling, that is, He is using situations familiar to his audience in order to teach a lesson; this type of story — telling is called a parable. Every parable which Jesus uses has a very important point or lesson for us to learn.

As we just heard, Jesus uses two parables. The first is about a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again. Out of joy, he sells all that he has so that he can buy that field and possess the buried treasure. The second parable is about a merchant who is searching for fine pearls and when he finds one pearl of great price, sells all that he has to purchase that pearl.

In the first parable, the person is going about his daily business. He is working, and in this situation, he is digging the earth. As he digs, he suddenly discovers a buried treasure. So, he goes off to sell all he has so he can buy that field and possess that treasure himself. In the second parable, the merchant is actively searching for pearls of the highest quality. When he finds one pearl that is exceedingly beautiful, he too sells all he has so he can purchase that one precious pearl.

Notice that while treasure was discovered unexpectedly as the person was doing the work assigned to him, the merchant was actively searching for the pearls of great price. Notice that in each situation, when the treasure was discovered and the pearl was found, the person sold all he had to possess his discovery.

Now we need to apply to ourselves the lessons which Jesus is teaching us through these two parables. After all, Jesus is speaking in a special way to each of you as you begin these Quo Vadis Days.

The buried treasure or the pearl of great price — choose either one — is the symbol of the plan God has for each one of us — for each one of you! But God’s plan will not just suddenly appear, like the result of pressing an app on your cell phone. As you do the ordinary things in life each day, you must be open to discovering God’s plan when at some specific moment, His plan will begin to become clearer to you; you will begin to discern more His will for you. In other words, each day, you will need to be open to God’s will as it becomes known to you. You must become like Solomon, asking only for an understanding heart, a heart open to discover that buried treasure, a heart open to purchase the pearl of great price, because, remember: the treasure, the pearl, is really God’s plan for your life.

So, discovering God’s plan for you, His will, is not something passive, like lying around waiting for it to somehow almost magically appear. No, discovering God’s plan for you, His will, is something very active. You must be actively engaged. How? By learning how to be in personal contact with Jesus, Who so loves you, by developing and deepening a really personal relationship with Him within the Community of His Disciples, the Church. You must also be actively engaged by listening to your heart, not your feelings, to begin to discern what really attracts you in terms of your future adult life. You must also be actively engaged by coming to understand the basic ways in which you — and I — live out our Baptismal consecration. At Baptism, each one of us was set apart — consecrated — for God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that we can share in their union of love, in their life by imitating and following Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who came to be our Lord and Savior. In a word, God’s plan for each one of us is fundamentally to be like Jesus.

Saint Paul reminds us of this in the second reading today. “We know that all things work for good, for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Yes, God has chosen each one of us in advance, predestined us, to be conformed to the image of His Son, that is, to be like Jesus. So, first of all, each one of us is called to learn Jesus Christ, that is, to know Him as a person, as our Friend, our Companion, our Savior, our Lord. And this is what we mean when we say God calls us to live out our Baptismal consecration. But God’s plan for each of us becomes more specific and concrete as we grow from childhood through adolescence into adulthood. He wants us to be like Jesus in a specific or particular way: by living out the particular or individual vocation He wills for us.

So then, He wants us to be like Jesus in being a priest, or to be like Jesus in being a consecrated person as a religious brother or religious sister, or to be like Jesus in being married as a husband and father. There are wives and mothers among us, so He wants them to be like Jesus in being a wife and mother. He wants us to be like Jesus in being a single person pledged to chaste living for the sake of God’s Kingdom, or to be like Jesus in being a permanent deacon while also being married or unmarried. So then, we each have a fundamental or primary vocation to be like Jesus, as the faithful follower, disciple and friend. And we also each have a specific or individual calling or vocation to be like Jesus as a priest or a religious brother or religious sister, or a husband and father, or a wife and mother for those among us this afternoon, or a single person living chastely for the sake of God’s kingdom, or a permanent deacon.

Dear participants, in these Quo Vadis Days, learn more how to be with Jesus through daily prayer, and the reception of the sacraments, especially Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Learn more how to listen to your heart and how to seek the good advice of others as you discern what your heart is saying. Learn more how to never cease seeking God’s plan for you specifically, in your adult life. But above all, learn more how to discover the greatest treasure, the best pearl, that is, learn how to love Jesus Christ, to be with Him, to imitate and to follow Him all life long! “Quo Vadis,” I ask. I hear your answer: “To find and to be with Jesus my Lord!”

Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.

This homily first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

In God’s providence, I am spending National Catholic Sisters Week (March 9-16) in Lowell, Michigan, at the Franciscan Life Process Center. I am with a group of college students and staff from Marymount University on their Spring Break service trip. Hence a trip to snowy Michigan, where the low last night was negative one, to work and pray with 14 Sisters from my Community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.

sistersThe students have spent the week serving schools, nursing homes, and programs where the Sisters provide counseling, education and music therapy, amongst many other experiences. For many of the students, they have never met nor interacted with Sisters before.

The questions are abundant! This will become more common with the decline of Sisters in the nation. As the culture moves away from God-centered lives, it will become harder for men and women to hear God asking them to sacrifice marriage and family and to radically follow Jesus in poverty, chastity and obedience as Religious Sisters, Priests and Brothers. To be sure, the “vocation crisis” includes ALL vocations. In addition to a decrease in priests and Sisters, we have a decrease in practicing Catholics, sacramental marriage, and men and women rejecting parenthood. …Not to mention the increase in divorce, cohabitation and birth control.

photoIn our nation, Sisters were the founding mothers of education, catechesis, healthcare, social services, and evangelization. Yes, they have been “successful” and done much. On Tuesday, I had the chance to visit with Sister Rita, who has been a Religious Sister for 82 years. As we visited, I marveled at this most accomplished woman, now blind and mostly deaf, now faithfully serving the Church in constant prayer and offering her suffering for others. Sister Rita is a woman — a mother, of prayer. Exactly what all Religious Sisters are called to be.

How many of our lives have been touched by Sisters? Personally, it was because of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist that my parents returned to the Catholic faith — something that saved their marriage and allowed them to provide a strong Catholic identity for their six children. While here at the Franciscan Life Process Center, I thought I would ask others how Sisters have affected their lives.

  • Allison: “I had never met a Sister until I was in my 40s. Then, when my husband died unexpectedly last year, it was Sister Colleen Ann who came within 20 minutes of his death. She was the only one who could get through to my son. Truly, God had a plan for me to meet them.”
  • Dottie: “My daughter went to preschool here, and she now has a family and is a wonderful mother. I know it was because of the Sisters. And I even have a grandson who wants to become a Priest.”
  • The five Cole girls had a variety of reasons they love Sisters: Hannah, 7, and Monica, 4, like their veils. Alyssa, 12, is grateful that Sisters pray for people and help those in need. Olivia, 10, is happy they have helped her learn to play the piano, go camping and ice skating. Mikayla, 2, said they are nice. Their mother, Beth, finds that her daughters are more prayerful and strive to behave because of spending time with Sisters, adding that it would be alright with her if all five became Religious.
  • Kim: “I’ve learned patience! The Sisters have taught me how to slow down and not to waste. I was always taught that Sisters were unapproachable. I sent my children to preschool here and they fell in love with the Sisters…and I did too.”

As we celebrate Religious Sisters, let us pray in gratitude for the many ways they have ministered through service and in prayer, and ask God to bestow the graces young women need to say “yes” to this supernatural calling.

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

World Youth Days can produce fruit that lasts. I can testify as a product of five of them!

Blessed Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Poland

Blessed Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Poland

The soil was prepared in 1991, in Czestowchowa, Poland, with Pope John Paul II. Standing in a crowd of millions, I realized three things: I am not the only teenager in the world who loves the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II; I’m sticking with this faith; and I have to be open to my vocation.

The seeds were planted in Denver in 1993. I would be entering the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist days after returning. As Providence would have it, I traveled with a group from Connecticut, which included then Auxiliary Bishop Paul Loverde, (my “boss-to-be” 13 years later). I took most seriously John Paul II’s exhortation: “Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the “path to life” (Ps. 16:11).The challenge is to make the church’s yes to life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life! Have no fear.”

As a “seedling” sister, I traveled as a chaperone for Rome, in 2000. I renewed my vows in Assisi on August 11, the feast of St. Clare, and received the graces of being a pilgrim in Rome during the Jubilee Year.

In full bloom, I attended the World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002 as a presenter on the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, just weeks before making my Perpetual Vows as a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist.

If that wasn’t enough, I then had the opportunity to bear fruit by leading a group to Cologne, Germany, in 2005, with our new pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. Thank you Lord for the gift of experiencing your words: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

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By: Caitlin Bootsma

This Sunday is the World Day for Consecrated Life, a celebration established for the universal Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997. Growing up, if I thought about it all, I would have said that “consecrated” was simply synonymous with “nuns” and “monks.” However, this designation actually applies to a myriad of men and women who are dedicated to the kingdom of God, including sisters, brothers, priests in religious orders, consecrated virgins, hermits and members of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life (you can see a list here).

Jesus Himself was the model of consecrated life – remaining celibate and giving His entire life for the Church (even to the point of death). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus affirms the validity of the consecrated life saying, “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12).

Sisters of Life at the recent Life is Very Good rally (photo: Stephanie Richer)

Sisters of Life at the recent Life is Very Good rally (photo: Stephanie Richer)

Sunday is an opportunity for us to thank God for the many saintly men and women who consecrated themselves to the Lord for the good of the Church throughout history. In a particular way, we can pray for those consecrated that we’ve known in our life, for the strength of their vocation. Whether that be a religious sister who taught us in grade school, a hermit who prays for our intentions or a consecrated man or woman living in the world. We can, as well, pray for all of those who may be discerning a call to this way of life.

Bishop Loverde tells us,“I join all the members of our diocesan Church of Arlington in thanking God for the gift of consecrated life in the Church and in asking Him to renew in all the men and women living the consecrated life…a spirit of deepening intimacy with their Spouse the Lord Jesus and of faithful service to the Body of Christ and to the human family. I especially ask us to pray for those living the consecrated life within this diocese and, in your name and mine, I thank each of them for their service here” (statement for World Day for Consecrated Life, 2011)

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